Fringe Episode 4.08 Review/Analysis: Who Is The Man Behind the Curtain? ~ Fringe Television - Fan Site for the FOX TV Series Fringe

Fringe Episode 4.08 Review/Analysis: Who Is The Man Behind the Curtain?

      Email Post       1/15/2012 03:13:00 AM      

This episode has a strong underlying theme of trust and deception. The ultimate evil is often believed to be deception. Many religions warn of being deceived. In fact, one of the many monikers for Satan is, “The Great Deceiver.” Tales span the centuries about humans tricked by this master of puppets. So, who is really pulling the strings on Fringe? Or if Peter is like Dorothy in OZ, who is the man behind the curtain?

Peter Bishop once described himself as a "world-class," "card-carrying" cynic, who also believed that “behind every cynic is a frustrated romantic. “ This one-liner quipped to Olivia in the season one episode, Midnight, has been much more of a look into Peter Bishop’s head, then just a throwaway line.

Peter is good at keeping his emotions inward, rarely going for over-dramatic outbursts of sadness. But the audience can see it in his face. His frustration is coming from a variety of sources, ingredients for a bubbling brew about to boil over and scald anyone that sets him off.

Dreams are often what we want the world to be. So, what does Peter want the world to be? If the dream sequence at the start of the episode is any indicator - nothing particularly special. Not money, fame, nor power. What is perceived as fairly mundane in one sphere of daily life is pretty much what most people truly want. Peter wants his family. “There is no place like home.” However, it’s not as easy to get there as wearing a pair of ruby slippers, and clicking his heels together, then simply waking up from a dream.

Even in this ideal dream, Peter knows that something is amiss. It can’t be “real.” Yet, he is sorely tempted to accept it. Because he is happy. Peter decides that although he really wanted waffles, pancakes would be OK, as long as he had Walter and Olivia. However, Peter’s “Waffles” are somewhere else, and the “Pancakes” are just a substitute. It does make me wonder if he learned from the mistakes that he made by accepting “Olivia’s differences" in season three. Deception is easy because people are so willing to not rock the boat.

With the "infernal machine" - the broken waffle maker - from his dream, in mind, Peter attempts to reach out to Walter for help, and makes his way to the lab. Walter is working when Peter makes his unnoticed entrance. Walter’s pinwheel experiment gives a clue - metal is acting against its physical nature in this timeline, similar to how the heavy metal Osmium was acting in Os.

Peter brings Walter a peace offering that seems to be a constant for Walter Bishop in any universe - pastries. This scene just brought fat tears to my eyes. The relationship between Walter and Peter - even strained - is one of my adored qualities about the show. The initial fear in Walter’s face, followed by mournful regret about the death of his wife, and ending with iciness toward Peter, just showed the power that John Noble can have over the audience. Jackson’s forte is the resonance that you can feel from his soul as he expressed his distress:

“I have been separated from my family. And you, of all people, should know how desperate I am to get back.”

Then the look on his face as he realizes that Walter was recounting the death of his mother… Jackson may be described as “understated” by some, but I enjoy his style so much. It feels very human - very real - not like an actor going merely through the motions or hamming it up. (By the way, The Beyond the Fringe comic written by Jackson is a must read, and recounts Elizabeth’s suicide.)

This season, Walter must feel that he is in the Garden of Eden, because Peter is an alluring, constant source of temptation for him. You can literally see the want in his eyes as he gives this complete, almost final rejection of him:

“My actions caused the death of my wife. Unspeakable damage to two universes. I lost my career - and my sanity - all because I tried to help another Peter.”

“ I may be the only man that can help you, but I am also the man who can not - help you.”

Peter notices Walter’s reflection in a mirror, and you can see that this gives him an idea. Rebuffed and running out options, Peter goes to the one person that he thinks that he can trust - Olivia.

My first thought when Olivia said she was home due to a migraine, was to laugh. Olivia? Staying home for a headache? Since when? Heck, in the prior time-line, she hobbled around after being thrown through a car windshield, and she went straight back to work after her ordeal in the other universe. What happened to our Dunhamnator? But she does say what she feels is the truth when she tells Peter that “Walternate is an untrustworthy son-of-a-bitch.” Peter looks like he fully agrees, given what he experienced from the past/future he knows... He seems to say in his mind, “Oh, Olivia, you don’t know the half of it.”

Olivia seems to be a popular lady, as Lincoln Lee shows up with some chicken noodle soup as an excuse for the offer of company. He doesn’t look too happy to see Peter there. The trio discuss using Lee as a way to get Peter to Walternate. The best reveal here that I had been waiting for? Olivia has no clue what Peter is talking about when he questions why she’d need Walter’s portal - when she can cross over on her own. Peter becomes agitated that they want to use him to get information from the alternate universe, believing Walternate is behind the shape-shifters. He wants no part, and does not want to risk his chance home. Lincoln and Olivia agree to help Peter, but as he leaves, it looks like deception is on their minds.


Meanwhile, on the other side, all is not what it seems. Walternate meets with his Chief Scientist, Brandon Fayette, concerning the lack of progress made in researching the shape-shifter technology. He insists on taking on an important task himself, much to Fayette’s obvious dismay. Also, on task elsewhere, are Lincoln Lee and Fauxlivia, both investigating a shape-shifter attack. Fauxlivia becomes upset and questions why the Fringe Division was ordered to leave the site to the military’s jurisdiction. The seeds of doubt have been placed in her head concerning the Secretary’s intentions.

As Lincoln and Peter prepare to step through the portal, set-up at the Opera house, Lincoln asks Peter what would happen if it shut-off while crossing over. Peter told him that it would slice him in half and  nonchalantly remarks, “I killed a guy like that once. But don’t worry, he was a bad guy.” They emerge on the other side, unscathed. Lincoln starts to sarcastically remark to Peter that "this place isn't much different..." until he sees the standard landmark to let Fringies know we're not in Kansas anymore.

Scarecrow and Mr. Bishop

Peter plays Lee’s prisoner and when they’re confronted by an MP that questions the transfer orders, I immediately thought of a similar scene in X-Files, in which Mulder used similar deception to gain access to where he had no business being.  Peter once made a living as a deceiver. So, it was enjoyable to watch his reactions to Lincoln’s Lee’s undercover duping attempts.

Peter informs Lincoln that he can scram, but Lincoln tells Peter his real intentions were to gain access to Walternate’s info after all. Peter is obviously not pleased at being deceived by the only people he thought he could trust. The squabble doesn’t last long as the “flying monkeys” arrive and place them under arrest. At least this Olivia has her own snark reply to Peter’s insistence to see Walternate - “Who the Hell are you?”

Walternate is informed by Colonel Broyles about the incursion. His reaction to the news of Peter is unexpected. It is one of actual belief. As the prisoners, Peter and Lincoln, are transported, the vehicle carrying them is high-jacked. Someone wants them dead, but luckily, Peter and Lincoln are able to kick some tail and escape. Peter shows his own skill at deception, by doing things his way, setting up Lee as a decoy, while he takes off to the one place he can feel is a "safe-house.” His mother’s home. (Just like Olivia was drawn to her mother’s home as her safe-house in Olivia.) Lincoln said Peter told him Fauxlivia could be trusted. I had a real good laugh at that one and exclaimed, “Yeah, right he did!”

Peter runs into Elizabeth, and she freaks, believing at first that he is a mugger, but then… she suddenly stops, a loving recognition crossing her face as she simply says, “Peter.”

This is the moment I’ve been hoping for. When Peter spent time with his mother in Over There, it was a beautiful and heart-wrenching reunion. But this crossing of paths is exponentially much more poignant and emotional. This Elizabeth has closure - her Peter had died. So she could move on. Yet here he was, an adult man, and she just knew by looking into his eyes. She knew it was HIM. But she also came to understand it was not him as well. But this was OK to her.

In Peter, Walter gave Elizabeth a glimpse of the other universe and explained that somewhere Peter would grow up, somewhere he’d be happy, just not with them. And this was alright until Walter found that Peter would die, and he saved him, only to have the temptation of that boy placed under a grieving mother’s nose.
This Elizabeth had a similar understanding, but no temptation.

When Peter meets Walternate, he is convinced that Walternate’s display of surprise and happiness was an act, not genuine. Peter is going on his feelings and assessment of the Walternate that he knew prior. “Where I’m from, I know you all too well.” Walternate is curious of Peter’s opinion, and tells him something that sums up the character in one sentence: “No one knows the burden of difficult decisions more than I.”  Walternate shows his innocence in a most convincing manner to Peter - by blasting Brandon Fayette, revealing him to be a shape-shifter, one that had managed to infiltrate the highest level of trust. The mere thought of deception leads to paranoia and mistrust. And what better way to deceive than to replace central figures with copies? Whether alternates or shape-shifters….

And the majority of Fringe fans cheered at the fact that this alt-Brandon had met a terrible fate.

It is a common theme in literature to tell tales of people that are trying to get home, only to be caught up in someone’s else’s fight along the way. Peter has been through this reluctance to assist others before. From the start, Olivia had to manipulate him with deception in order to obtain his help. As Peter’s eyes were opened to The Pattern in The Arrival, he began to form binding ties to Walter and Olivia. In Northwest Passage, his idea of home was shattered once again - his trust frayed. But when he learned that his own biological father, Walternate, was deceiving him for his own purposes, Peter decided to go back to his adopted home. And we all know what happened after…

Walternate tells Peter about his doubts in deciding to shoot Fayette. This is a situation that Peter can feel sympathy for, considering he had doubts about Olivia when they came back from the other side, but did not act upon his instinct. Walternate asks Peter for a favor - to be a messenger of hope - to tell the other side that that have a common enemy. Peter considers Walternate’s pleas and his promise to help him. The exchange between them is a monumental moment for the series.

PETER: “I was wrong about you. You’re not the man that I thought you were.”
WALTERNATE: “You are exactly the man I thought that you’d be.”

I never believed that Walternate was “evil” This does not mean that I like, or agree with his methods/actions, but it does make for the kind of character that I enjoy most. - those with shades of gray. I’ve never been one for straight-up heroes or villains. This is why the characters on Fringe, to me, are some of the best in television. Each has virtues, but the flaws that make each of us human. Including the capacity to deceive and be deceived.

We know who made the call about Peter and Lincoln now. Broyles. I did not see that one coming.

Earlier this summer, several of us at Fringe Television participated in a Summer Re-watch of Seasons 1-3. We looked at the episodes with a fresh understanding, fueled by the events of Season Three. Connections were made between the episodes, connecting-the-dots for some of the series’ most intriguing themes and character development. One of the questions that we as an audience were asked to ponder was how the absence of Peter may have affected things.

In There Is More Than One of Everything, David Robert Jones tried to crossover to the other side at Reiden Lake, with the intent of finding and killing William Bell. Peter was able to use Walter’s breach-plug, to stop Jones by slicing him in half. One of my speculations was that in a world without Peter, Jones survived, crossed-over, and killed William Bell. I asked episode writer, David Fury, about this on Twitter, and he replied, “ Interesting theory. All will be answered in time.” It was also no surprise to me that Jones was behind the shape-shifters, as Nina once described him as “an expert in genetic weaponry.”

If Peter is to be a neutral peacemaker, then the last message of the episode is one of doom. Olivia awakens to find a bleeding, bald-headed man that tells her he has a message: “I have looked into all possible futures, and in every one, the result is the same… in every one, you have to die…”

Thank goodness “Baseball Happened” or we would have all had to an endure the hiatus with this to ponder!

Instead, Enemy of My Enemy airs next week!

Who shot September? And No! Olivia is important, too - she has to live! The thing is, if Peter surprised the Observers, certainly her fate is not set in stone either.  LOST was good at showing that no matter what one did, the end result would always be the same. I hope Fringe does not go that route - there are exceptions - as evidenced by the existence of Peter Bishop.

Also, keep in mind that if Peter’s opinion of Walternate could change - after what he did to Olivia in the future time-line- then maybe his thoughts of Fauxlivia can be as well.

My lingering question is this: Does Nina Sharp know about this? I am still in the dark about exactly whose side she is on? However, I believe that for some reason she is protecting Olivia - maybe trying to harness her powers for the coming war?
The Truth is Out There


Azulnauta said...

Olivia must not die!!

jophan said...

I am so glad this is back.

45 said...

"Then the look on his face as he realizes that Walter was recounting the death of his mother… Jackson may be described as “understated” by some, but I enjoy his style so much. It feels very human - very real - not like an actor going merely through the motions or hamming it up. (By the way, The Beyond the Fringe comic written by Jackson is a must read, and recounts Elizabeth’s suicide.)"

Josh's understated performance is the reason people don't respect him. They expect him to be a huge drama queen and cry like a little baby.
HOWEVER, I watched the scenes with Peter and I am not sure what the heck Amrit was talking about when he or she said how Peter had no agency no drive. Peter sure as hell had lots of them. We saw him go to walter for help, we saw him yell at Lincoln after finding out he was duped by them, we saw him tell Elizabeth with such remorse and sadness in his voice that he is not her son and we saw him with Walternate.

But whatever, people just want Josh to be like John and Anna instead of being like Josh and how JOSH perceives his character.

For crying out loud, Peter was NEVER a damn drama queen.

simonseattle said...

<a href="
Peters response to emotion is more subtle nonetheless
Observable and meaningful. Just one example from Fridays
Show when talking to his alt/timeline mother you can see deep feeling his eyes, a deep swallow several, as thought
Fighting back tears and a mix of emotions he doesn't feel
He can give vent to, the wall is to hight but the physical
Clues are there. It fits with the character and background
Of Peters personality. You could the same same restrained
Emotions as he talked with Walternate. Peter is being true
To the character Josh is portraying, I feel great sympathy
For him and what is incapable of saying expressing, he's
Trapped in the personality life has given him.

Shawn Mahone said...

Ryan McGee said it best. Peter was bounced around like a pinball all so that he could hold up a mirror and guage the emotional state of characters over there. I never meant to say that he did not have some good moments. But this episode should have been about him doing whatever it took to get home and that meant telling Walternate how it is and not making deals.

As I said there were some good moments in the episode, but this episode and the one following had a purpose...hold fans over until the finale.

Job done.

Unknown said...

@Amrit, I'm sorry, but I did not get this feeling at all. If all Peter did was insist on getting his way, then he would have learned nothing from prior seasons. The beauty in his character is he is willing to trust in a deceiving world, and change his mind if need be. The writers "should" have... No, they should follow the story they are writing. And that is Peter is a constant in a world of changes that he must figure out, and deal with.

tiffany said...

I never thought I would be thanking baseball until now. Thanks for the excellent review.

R0neo said...

A great review. I can not agree more. Deception has been the big issue.
I fully share your opinion (and that of 45, simonseattle) about Joshua Jackson`s Peter performance. He did beautiful in this episode.

Shawn Mahone said...

How can our world trust anything Peter says if they know that he is trying to broker a deal with Walternate to go home?

He spent one episode (6) deciding to go home and then 2 episodes (8&9) deciding he has to stay and supervise this war. So is hos role now as the man in charge of a war and so he can only go home once e big bad is defeated. So the final scene this season will be him finally returning home?

Again it is a good story...but it takes a lot of nuance to convince me thtat he is willing to put his dreams behind to one side and fight a fit that is not his, it comes across that he is being blackmailed to stay and that is why I say he lacks agency. If he has to stay not out of choice but due to circumstances beyond his control then he is. A pawn in a bigger game and that is a little concerning.

I suppose it comes down to this...the show is Walter versus Walternate and Olivia versus Fauxlivia and Peter just has to wait until it is over to get back home.

Unknown said...

They are all pawns - I'm sure that we will soon see this. After all, who can actually manage to shoot an Observer, an entity shown to literally catch bullets due to their time perceptive abilities?

Peter is convinced this this not his Walter/Olivia, and this is not his fight. I am betting that he will be proven wrong on both counts.

Anonymous said...

Aimee, right cause Peter is ALWAYS wrong. Anyways, I want Peter to be right and not deal with Lincoln lee taking his place, Lincoln being touched by Olivia (which utterly pisses me off, she NEVER touched Peter that way! She is such a bitch sometimes), seeing Olivia and Walter treat him like an idiot. I hate this storyline and I want Lincoln OUT of this show and give me back Peter Bishop!

Funny people tend to criticize Peter for not "caring" about this timeline's walter and olivia and the war but yet nobody will help PETER with his issues. Oh and BTW, the last time he invested in anybody, that somebody winded up being the wrong Olivia so why should Peter invest his time and energy on people who DO NOT CARE ABOUT HIM AT ALL. I can hear it now (if he was to get closer to amber-Olivia and walter and gets back to his own timeline), "Peter, how can you get close to another version of myself! I thought you loved me! " wah! wah!

So get over it folks, Peter shouldn't invest in people who do not care about him.

Yeah OK.

cortexifan said...

Aimee, that was awesome. We are on the same sheet of music :)

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